I once blogged about my writing practice and process, and I feel this is a nice dovetail: my writing desk and space. We all need to carve out our own little nooks in this world, and this tiny corner is mine.
This where I do all my writing: all my short stories, all my blogging, and all my freelance articles are done here, including a little doodling and reading now and then. I decorated it like this because I think it reflects me and my personality best. Some people prefer really modern, sleek, office-y, stainless-steel-type designs, and others prefer a kind of non-descript, antiseptic look. But I wanted my space to be peppered with all of the things that inspired me, visually and spatially, and all the things that really mean something to me.
For example, these are my Lebanese grandparents making-out on their front porch in Montreal circa 1948. I typed out that Bukowski quote on my typewriter. All the picture frames were bought from London flea markets, but a few I found discarded on the sidewalk. Who throws out gorgeous picture frames?!
That photograph in the foreground of the two 1920s women pushing the pram: I have no idea who they are. I found them discarded on the flea market grounds in Brussels right before the sky opened up and an incredible tempest washed everything away. I feel like I saved them.
Those are Belgian telegrams, and also some French postcards ad German letters, which I bought from their respective flea markets. I typed out the quote at the bottom, and I found the image of the typewritten quote at the top online and then printed it out on photographic paper at a pharmacy in London.
I got the antique iron keys from a friend who bought them for me when I was living in Copenhagen. I typed out the Dumas quote, and it sits on a small blue photo album from the 1940s that I bought in Paris. The vase & saucer I got at a London flea market, and the typewriter ribbon tin I bought at the Brooklyn flea.
The pill bottles in the foreground I got at a flea here in Toronto. The red-cover books in the background are all travel guidebooks from the 1920s, 30s, & 40s. It’s so interesting to read about “where to find a public bathhouse in London,” or about how many Francs you can get for your Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings, and Sovereigns. There’s even a section on why French customs strictly prohibits British matches from entering the country, but you can bring your own cigarettes. Also, air travel was so new, that they don’t really mention it. They only mention taking the ferry from Dover to Calais! The guidebooks have fold-out maps and even photographs. Looking at Amsterdam then and comparing it to now is such a mind-fuck.
That’s a Bukowski quote.
I bought that cigar box from a flea market in Düsseldorf. I put all of the small monochrome photographs that I bought from flea markets around Europe in there. A note about the photographs: I don’t know the people. I am assuming they’ve all passed, seeing as how their personal family photo albums were for sale on flea markets. I buy them because they look so happy. I like their faces. Also, sometimes going through private photos reveals some interesting secrets, as I wrote in an essay for VICE recently … And if they’re not in the cigar box….
… they’re hanging on my wall. From left to right, I bought him in Brussels, him in Copenhagen, and her in Paris.
That babe second-from-right is my Mum when she was 18. The rest, left to right, Brussels, Brussels, Berlin, and the child on the right is from Amsterdam.
These ladies are so old, they’re beginning to fade, but I love them all the more because they’re so bad-ass. On the left, I bought them in Paris and on the back it’s dated June 18, 1929. On the right, I bough her in Brussels, it’s dated August 18, 1922. She’s so fucking cool, I can’t even. I’m all out of evens.
Bought both from Brussels. Street scenes and street photography from the early 20th century are so amazing to me. I love the composition of the left photo! Right photo on the back is dated May 1942 and it says they just returned from shopping.
There’s my gorgeous bee-yooot. Read this for the story behind the provenance of this baby.
Some of the books that really moved me that are resting on my desk are All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
I feel like I become a different person when I sit down at this desk. Outside, I’m gregarious and silly and hungry and moving and yelling and dancing and what not… but here, I am something else.
I have a lot more upcoming publications yet-to-be-announced, but now you know where I was when I wrote them.
Remember to update your links and visit the new home of ChristineEstima.com!
Recently I received a charming invitation to “blog hop” about my writing experience. How it works is: a blogger/writer blogs about their writing process, and then nominates three other blogger/writers to do the same… and so it goes. Oh the blogs you can hop through in this network!
I was nominated by writer and editor Rachel Stuckey to blog it like it’s hot, a challenge I would never shy away from, and so now you get to read an insight into my life as a writer. If you’re a writer like me, or you’re interested in becoming one, hearing about the writing processes and habits of other writers is always invaluable information that you an apply to your own process.
I’ve done this before, a few years ago I was an invited panellist at my alma mater York University to speak about my experience in the writing and publishing industry. Here’s a clip from that lecture, where I was telling the students how to go about getting funding and grants for their creative writing projects from Canadian funding bodies:
A lot of the other writers in this blog-hop are travel writers, which I am as well, but I also do fiction (novels and short stories), playwrighting, spoken word, music/film/theatre/book reviews, academic essays, interviews with notable personalities, and basically anything remotely related to writing that interests me, so I cover a lot of bases.
Anyway, enjoy my insights and writing-foibles!
What am I working on/writing?
I recently finished writing my second novel! I have been editing it with the help of some outside eyes and also in conjunction with my literary agent, and it is ready to be taken to the next level. I don’t want to talk too much about this on here because I feel like it will jinx it, but when the “next level” has been achieved, I will blog the snot out of it, trust me. I have also been working on a whole bunch of short stories and have been submitting them to literary journals which, as any writer will tell you, carries a long waiting sentence before you receive word of acceptance or rejection. So while I wait patiently, I have already begun brewing in my head the concept for my next novel! Novel number three, here we go. This one will involve some historical figures and a lot of research, so for the foreseeable future, you can find me living in the library. Ah, Old-Book-Smell. How I love thee.
How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
My literary agent told me recently that the reason why he was so eager to sign me to his roster is because I am a “fearless” writer. Everybody wants to be a writer. Everybody wants to write the next great novel, but most of the time, they don’t want to take the chances necessary to achieve such goals. My writing, first and foremost, has a distinct voice. I spent years crafting my style, my form, my content, and my voice. For some writers, all that stuff comes naturally. Not me. I am not naturally gifted like Kerouac or Keats. I have had to work for every writing-coup I’ve ever had. The structure of each sentence is a BIG DEAL to me. So when it comes to what I write about, and my style of writing, I have to be provocative, and take chances, and let the story go to places that make even me uncomfortable. There’s no point in writing if you’re not willing to be vulnerable.
Why do I write what I do?
Great question. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I write fiction.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a storyteller. I used to love crafting up little narratives in my head as a little girl and then telling Mum about them. When I was in Grade 4 and our English teacher gave us the assignment to write a short story, everyone turned in about 4 pages worth of writing. I turned in 40.
I always had my nose in a book, and would get huge book deliveries from Scholastic (remember Scholastic!!) every few weeks. I couldn’t read enough, most of the time. And I always felt the urge to tell stories, especially when new concepts and ideas would pop into my head. I always preferred making up the stories, rather than telling true stories, so fiction naturally became my weapon of choice. By the time I was 12 years old, just the sight of a sharpened pencil and a huge stack of crisp loose-leaf paper would get me all giddy.
I guess I enjoy the freedom that fiction affords. The freedom to completely own the story that you tell, and the characters therein. I love the ability to fashion wild scenarios, and explore all the dark facets of human behaviour when stuck in such scenarios. Non-fiction and memoir have to be true and grounded in reality. Fiction is beholden to neither. That is just too tempting for such a dreamer like me.
When I got my first professional publication at the age of 18, I never looked back. I was hooked.
I double-majored Theatre Studies and Creative Writing in university, and returned to both subjects for my Masters degree. Since then, I have been published in literary anthologies, literary journals, travel anthologies, daily newspapers, weekly alternative magazines, glossy mags, national and international reviews, academic reviews, and even an encyclopedia. I’ve had about five plays produced, and I’ve lectured and performed at academic and creative conferences around the world.
How does my writing process work?
I actually have a strange writing process. Firstly, I absolutely need to write my first draft by hand.
Even though I type faster than I write.
Even though this means that I have to go through mounds and mounds of notebooks filled with messy scribblings, and arrows criss-crossing all over the page.
I cannot just stare at a blinking cursor and start to write. I need to have a pen in my hand and paper before me. I think this has to do with the actual act of writing. I see it as a violent act. The violence of pressing the pen nub into the paper and scratching your words into its surface, forever defacing it. There’s something about the Violence of Writing, as I call it, that is required for me to tell a good story.
Secondly, I can’t write at home. I need to be out in public.
Maybe because writing is such a solitary and isolating experience, that the sheer presence of others makes me feel less alone.
Maybe because there are too many distractions at home (like bed and Facebook….. mmmmm, Facebook in bed….sooo tempting).
Maybe because my stories are usually set in urban areas, so it requires me to be situated amongst the populous to inspire the descriptions about life in the metropolis…
Maybe because the word Writer is synonymous with Coffee Shop, and therefore one is always apt to find themselves amongst other writers down at their local latte-hole.
Who knows? All I know is that I’m weird, man.
I nominate Fran Harvey over at Bookworms and Coffee Monsters because she’s just gotten her first poetry publication and is ON FIRE at the moment with writing and submissions and can surely offer some keen insight into her work and process.
Onto the next blog-hop!
Walking along the ancient city walls in Maastricht
The Selexyz Bookstore in Maastricht, which is a converted church. Fitting, seeing as how A) books are more useful than churches and B) churches used to ban books and burn them.
The view from my loft in Amsterdam
Gloria Swanson at the Foam museum in Amsterdam
More stuff on the walls at Foam in Amsterdam.
In a garage in Ghent.
She was displayed for no reason on Rue des Tanneurs, Brussels.
Penthouse flat I’ve been housesitting for 3 weeks, built in the 1920s. Oh what a tough life this is.
Especially when I’m forced to watch the sun set over Brussels.
A chateau hidden in a forest in La Hulpe.
The garden of the chateau in La Hulpe.
Jere snapped a pic of me riding off into the sunset, as it were.
Stupid cherubs and cupids (photo by Jere).
I went to a talk and reading of fellow-Torontonian Margaret Atwood at Flagey. She named-dropped Canada so much. The Arrogant Worms. North West Territories. The CBC. The Axe-Throwing League of Toronto.
Oh and I got to ask her a question from the balcony. I felt pretty sweet.
Cook & Book store in Woluwe. There are books on the ceiling. THE CEILING!
Oh what a feeling! When we’re reading on the ceiling!
And so many places to sip a cuppa whilst reading 🙂
Of course this was on the ceiling.
In Halles St. Gery, I stumbled upon a free symphony orchestra performance that had set up inside.
I went to the Jeu de Balle flea market and came back with 15 love letters between a man named Kenneth and a woman named Nathalie.
This one says, “je t’écris pour te dire que tu as été, que tu es, que tu seras la femme la plus belle, la plus douce, la plus importante de ma vie.”
Speaking of letters …. when I’m sad, my friends send me gifts and letters of encouragement in the mail. My friends could beat up your friends. First, I found this in my mail box.
And finally this.
I have a great support team.
And when I don’t have my friends, I can always rely on a snugglecat for a kiss.
Paris has always been a city of and for writers. Everyone from Molière to Houellebecq has called Paris home, called it inspiring, and therein found an audience for their writing. I have been visiting Paris annually since 2005, and I know the city very well, in fact I feel like a local (my fluency in French helps, of course). Every time I’ve been to Paris, I’ve never been bored or ran out of activities to do. This time, I decided that since I am in the process of writing my second novel, my activities this time might as well reflect that …. and therefore, to walk in the footsteps of the literary greats before me. So I fashioned my own Writers Tour of Paris. Why pay someone for a tour when you can do it yourself?
I did days-upon-days of research online before I went, taking endless pages of notes, and re-read A Moveable Feast on the train to Paris from Cologne. Here is the fruits of my labour.
#1 Ernest Hemingway, 74 Rue Cardinal Lemoine
Of course he would be my first port of call. Hemingway called Paris “a moveable feast” and wrote some of his greatest works, including The Sun Also Rises, whilst living there in the 1920s with his first wife, Hadley.
In 1922, he moved to 74 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, around the corner from Place Contrescarpe and the Luxembourg Gardens.
This is the blue door leading up to his flat that had no bathroom or toilet of its own (not uncommon in flats of the time, where tenants would all share a bathroom down the hall. I’ve stayed in some hostels that maintain that architectural oddity). I have read conflicting reports that he & Hadley either lived on the 3rd or 4th floor. Hemingway writes about scribbling in his notebooks in the early morning when only the cat and his baby boy “Bumby” were awake. After Hadley would wake, he would scoot off down to some of the nearby cafes and bars. He also talks about the dance hall “la bal musette” which was situated underneath the flat. That was located where the left window is under the plaque, it is now used as a convenience store. Of course people still live in this flat today, so I couldn’t go inside, but I peered in through the front door and saw the classic black and white checkered floor tiles, obviously orginal as they were cracked and warped with time in a gorgeous latitude, and the narrow spiral staircase to the back with the wrought iron bannister, clearly dating to at least 100 years prior.
For you non-French speakers, this says that Hem lived here from 1922-23 on the third floor with Hadley. It says the neighbourhood, which he loved above all, was the birthplace of his style, form and content. He became friendly with his neighbours, including the owner of la bal musette. It then quotes from A Moveable Feast, where Hem says, “That was the Paris of our youth, at a time when we were very poor and very happy.” The “we” being him and Hadley, whom Hemingway later regretted cheating on and divorcing. A Moveable Feast was published after his death, but he was writing it in the early 60s when he was on his fourth wife. In that context, when he writes “I wish I’d died before I loved anyone but her,” we can deduce that, 40 years after their separation, he still held her in his highest regard.
As I tried to photograph the 3rd and 4th floor windows, I noticed a sign that said “Under Hemingways” which was for a travel agency.
#2 Hemingway, 39 Rue Descartes
This location, around the corner from Rue Cardinal Lemoine, used to be a hotel where Hem rented the top floor flat as a studio to write and work. He said that staring out over the rooftops of the quarter and seeing the chimneys was very inspiring to him. Now it’s a restaurant with a somewhat uninformed plaque.
He never lived there, just worked. Above that plaque, it says that poet Verlaine died in this building in 1844. So I guess Hemingway must have enjoyed the ghosts and spirits of good company.
#3 James Joyce
Back on Cardinal Lemoine is the courtyard leading up to the gated house where James Joyce lived when he wrote Ulysses. Hem was a fan of Joyce’s when they finally met via Sylvia Beach.
I once visited Dublin where Joyce was from, and ate at the very pub where he used to eat and write all the livelong day.
#4 Gertrude Stein, 27 Rue de Fleurus
Gertrude Stein was a writer but she was mostly known as an art collector and for entertaining in her flat all of the most current and du jour artists and writers of the time. It was here that she received Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, among others, and lived with her partner Alice B. Toklas.
It’s hard to know which window was hers, so let’s just pretend it’s one of these.
#5 Man Ray, 2 bis Rue de Férou
Not a writer but just as influential on the culture of the time, anyway. I have always loved Man Ray ever since my first year in university where I gave a presentation on his photography. Considering that he photographed everyone in his studio from Hem to Stein to Dali, et al, I think he deserves some inclusion.
Right next to his door, on the wall, the city had painted the words of one of Rimbaud’s poems. It was said that when Rimbaud wrote the poem near Saint Sulpice, which was to the right of Man Ray’s studio, the wind was blowing up the street, from right to left, so that is why the poem was painted from right to left… the verse you see here is the final verse.
#6 Sylvia Beach, 12 Rue de L’Odéon
Sylvia Beach was the original owner and proprietor of the infamous Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Most anglophones in Paris these days know of the shop’s location on Rue de la Huchette, directly across la Seine from Notre Dame. That is where second owner George Whitman moved the shop. But in the 1920s, this is where Sylvia had her store and lending library. Hem wrote of her and shop as the greatest, that Sylvia would lend him novels and tomes without really knowing him, and not expecting money in return. Sylvia also was the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, when no other publisher would take him.
Right next door was this charming bookshop, and I originally photographed it because it resembles what Shakespeare & Co might have looked like in the 1920s.
Then I noticed the plaque above it, and realized that is where writer Thomas Paine lived when he wrote The Rights of Man during the French Revolution.
#7 Sylvia Beach, 8 Rue Dupuytren
Before Beach set up Shakespeare & Co on Rue de L’Odéon, she set it up here on Rue Dupuytren, where she also lived above.
I love photographing the windows of these places, imagining these great people pushing aside the curtains, peering out over the city, and wondering about their place in the world. Just like I do.
#8 Shakespeare and Company
I and many other bloggers have photographed the snot out of this shop for decades, so I didn’t necessarily feel the need to photograph it again and again, as I have over the years. I visited it, as I do every time I visit Paris, just to read, think, write, and get out of the rain. I sat upstairs in the library for about four hours, doing just that. Where the books have a wonderful old-book smell, where the window looks out over Notre Dame, where the typewriters no longer work from worn-out ribbons, and the floor tiles click with each heel.
Shakes & Co has a history of letting struggling writers live in the shop for free while they work on their tomes. If you want to know more about this, I highly suggest reading the memoir Time Was Soft There, written by Canadian Jeremy Mercer. It details his life as a struggling writer living in the shop with George Whitman. It’s great and moving.
Whilst there, I read the first four chapters of this. What is this? The hardcover with the lovely H & E initials coupled together?
It’s The Paris Wife. A fictionalized account of Hadley and Hemingway’s early years together in Paris, told from Hadley’s point of view.
#9 Pablo Picasso, 7 Rue des Grands-Augustins
Here, beyond the gates, is where Pablo Picasso’s studio was located in the 20s and 30s. It was here that he painted Guernica.
What’s also incredible is that this is also the setting for Balzac’s short story “The Unknown Masterpiece” in the 19th century. Picasso was, apparently inspired by that, even though his masterpiece is well-known.
So the gates of this house were open, and I couldn’t seem to find a single soul on the lot, so, being the curious case that I am, I wandered inside.
And look what had happened right across the street a couple hundred years earlier:
It says, in that spot, Louis XIII received the sacrement one hour after his father, Henry IV, died.
And for some reason, this wheatpaste was on the wall.
#10 F. Scott Fitzgerald, 14 Rue Tilsitt
Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived here with their young baby as he was writing The Great Gatsby. This is literally around the corner from L’Arc de Triomphe
I wasn’t sure which window was his, but again, I like to pretend one of these was his, and he would stare out onto the street, over the top of L’Arc de Triomphe, and wonder about his future. The Great Gatsby was a modest hit during his lifetime. Sure it was made into a film back then, but by the end of his life in the 60s, he was a Hollywood hack, working only on the strength of his name, rather than his successes. He was known to purchase copies of his own book, just to increase his sales. He died thinking himself a failure.
#11 Honoré de Balzac, 47 Rue Raynouard
It’s crazy to think that at the time Balzac lived here in the 1800s, this was beyond the city limits of Paris, considered suburban, and therefore, one could live in a house with such a huge garden! Surrounding Balzac’s surviving house is row upon row up high-rises (ornate and sumptuous as they may be, from the early 20th century), but urban nonetheless. His house stands out.
Balzac’s house has been turned into a museum that’s free to the public. It’s a charming little home, which details his writing habits. He would wake up around midnight and, fueld by endless cups of coffee, he would find inspiration in the stillness and solitude of the night. He would continue this way until it was time to eat in the morning and afternoon.
Here is his chair, his writing desk, and one of his manuscripts under glass.
#12 Emile Zola, 21 Rue de Bruxelles
At the time Zola lived here, it was a swinging hotel behind Place Clichy. Now it’s just another abandoned but beautiful architectural relic.
He wrote his infamous essay J’accuse here, and also died here.
Windows as far as the eye can see. Ideas, tantamount.
#13 Ezra Pound, 70 bis Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs
There was no plaque, and very little information on what Pound did here during his time here. I was mostly on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in order to find Hemingway & Hadley’s second home at 113 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, but, oddly, to my surprise, I couldn’t find it! I found 111, I found 115, and I found 115 bis, but no 113! Is it unmarked? Hidden? Torn down for 115 bis?
#14 Marcel Proust, 102 Boulevard Hausmann
They turned Marcel Proust’s home into a bank.
#15 Tamara de Lempicka, 5 Rue Guy de Maupassant
This is where my most favourite artist lived in the 1920s when she painted her most deliriously sumptuous art-deco portraits and had some scandalous affairs. I have been in love with Tamara de Lempicka’s work since I saw her work at Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts when I was ten and bought a bookmark. In my 20s, I bought her posters, ripped her stuff out of magazines and books, framed them and hung them around my various shitty apartments.
So when I was taking the metro in Paris, I noticed by pure luck that the Pinacotheque was putting on a Lempicka exhibit, so I rushed to see it. You’re not allowed to take photographs inside the exhibit, but all the security guards were huddled in one corner having a gossip-fest, so I quickly whipped out the iPad out of their view, and snapped these images licketty-split.
#16 Victor Hugo and Les Misèrables
Les Mis is based on the June 1832 rebellion, not the French Revolution as many people erroneously believe. A student rebellion that only lasted a couple of days, where they barricaded the streets just north of Chatelet-les-Halles, but were bloodily defeated by the army.
According to wikipedia:
“On June 5, 1832, Victor Hugo was writing a play in the Tuileries Gardens when he heard the sound of gunfire from the direction of Les Halles. The Gardens were deserted and the park-keeper had to unlock the gates to let Hugo out, but instead of hurrying home, he followed the sounds through the empty streets, unaware that half of Paris had already fallen to the mob. All about Les Halles were barricades. Hugo headed north up the Rue Montmartre, then turned right onto the Passage du Saumon, and at last turning before the Rue du Bout du Monde (World’s End Street). Halfway down the alley, the grilles at either end were slammed shut. Hugo was surrounded by barricades and flung himself against a wall, as all the shops and stores had been closed for some time. He found shelter between some columns. For a quarter of an hour, bullets flew both ways.”
Doing some digging, I found that these above streets were still there, exact renamed. Passage du Saumon is now called Passage Ben Aiad, and Rue du Bout du Monde is now called Rue Leopold Bellan. So I decided to follow the footsteps of Hugo on that fateful day. I hung out in Les Tuileries for a bit, sitting under some trees to shield myself from the rain.
Then walked up Monmartre which is now a fashionable shopping district. I finally came upon Rue Leopold Bellan:
but finding the Passage Ben Aiad was more difficult than I imagined. Like Hugo getting trapped behind the grilled fences during the gun battle, there were a lot of passages that were closed off to the public by grilled fances, and not many of them are marked or well marked… so I wandered the area for about half and hour searching for the previously known Passage du Saumon, where he had to huddle from shooting death.
Then, I turned down the opposite street, and found the back entrance to it!
Let’s take a minute to ponder upon this, munchkins. This is the exact spot that, without which, we would not have one of the most rousing novels, one of the most stirring musicals, and one of the greatest documents of an otherwise-forgettable bloodbath. This is where it all happened. June Uprising, not forgotten, nor it’s auteur.
I stuck my camera through the gates, and the passage is now apparently home to many flats, but the grilled fences are still there.
It dons a historical marker, but it says nothing of the June Rebellion, oddly.
Speaking of Les Mis, in the novel, Hugo describes the battle as happening just south of this location near St Denis and “Rue de la Chanverrerie” which, in reality, was the Rue Rambuteau, which still exists today. It is also a disgusting shopping district with no historical markers visible (fucking Starbucks on the corner too), but I decided to photograph the street corner nonetheless.
#17 Edith Piaf, 18 Rue Véron
Again, not a writer, but an inspiring and talented artist nonetheless that is synonymous with Paris. I found out through my digging that, in the early 1930s when she was only 20 years old, she took a room at this location to focus on cultivating a singing career, which came later. So I wandered the hilly narrow streets of Montmartre to find it.
Again, no historical marker, but still standing. It says it’s a hotel, which I’d wager it was back then as well, but it appeared to be abandoned. No sign of life at the door. I stood in the opposite doorway as it rained and rained, imagining her running in and out of that door, in the rain as well, looking for a gig.
#18 The writer cafés of Montparnasse.
The Lost Generation of Hem, Fitzgerald, Stein, Pound, Beach, Picasso, et al, all talked about these cafes. They would come here to socialize, to drink, to write, to drink, to be inspired, and to drink. Walking along the boulevard, you can’t swing a bottle of Merlot without cracking it on 5 massive Parisian cafes.
L’Auberge de Venise (Dingo bar)
Now this one is super important, because it is where Hemingway first met F. Scott Fitzgerald. He details this encounter in A Moveable Feast, and says he didn’t much care for Fitzgerald. Later on in their friendship, Fitzgerald pulled Hem into the loo’s to show him his penis, insecure about it’s size because Zelda had given him a complex. Hem had to (much to his chagrin) assure the poor Scott that yes, his wang was of adequate size.
This is also where Hem first met Lady Duff Twysden, who would become the inspiration for the character of Brett in The Sun Also Rises.
Hem’s picture on the wall.
The bar where all these encounters went down.
La Closerie des Lilas
Another super important cafe because Hem writes about this cafe in detail. He loved coming here to write daily.
Le salon of Closerie des Lilas, where he undoubtably scribbled some of his most brilliant works.
#19 The Cafés of St Germain des Pres
Les Deux Magots
Hem writes a lot about writing at Les Deux Magots, which 100 years ago was a Chinese shop (the two “magots” in question are the Chinese figures which rise above the bar) but turned into a bar at some point. Hem wasn’t alone, the cafe is littered with photographs of other writers who frequented.
Here’s a pic of Hem sitting in the cafe, and it’s hung right above the spot where he was sitting.
This photograph of Simone de Beauvoir is hung exactly in the spot where he is depicted.
Cafe de Flore
In reality, I only photographed this cafe because I recently saw the Quebecois film Cafe de Flore starring Vanessa Paradis, and it was SO FUCKING GOOD that I figured the place the deserved a photo. Also, I love that woman that I captured turning around in front of the joint. She was being called out to by her young son who was being taken away by a nanny. It was a glorious moment in time.
As you can see, this tour was all-encompassing and took me an entire week to complete, as it traverses all across the city. But it was so worth it, so inspiring, and it helped me launch into the goodies of my second book (oh yes, this novel will be loaded with the goods).
I have much more to blog about Paris, and will do so tout suite. Expect more to come, my little munchkins.
Are you fan of the Parisian writers? Have you also visited these spots? Do you have your own inspiring Paris story? Tell me in the comments below!
In 1920, Ernest Hemingway, then a freelance journalist for The Toronto Star and struggling writer, wrote this letter to his wife Hadley:
“You can make me jealous—and you can hurt most awfully—’cause my loving you is a chink in the armour of telling the world to go to hell and you can thrust a sword into it at any time—”
And then he goes on to say,
“‘Course I love you—I love you all the time—when I wake up in the morning and have to splash around and shave—I look at your picture and think about you—and that’s a pretty deadly part of a day as you know and a good test of loving any one.”
You can read and view Hemingway’s letter in all it’s original handwritten glory here.
I have been reading simultaneously The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast, I cannot get enough early Hemingway, and this letter is an excellent example of why his writing, while sometimes indulgent and dawdling, is also very evocative and moving.
Yes, he betrayed Hadley, and married four times, before shooting himself in the head, but as he writes in A Moveable Feast, “I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.“
last week, i let you munchkins know that several publishing houses across north america were now reading my debut novel. (my fingers are still crossed, no real news yet to report, this will take quite some time).
anyhoo, some impressions have already been sent to my literary agent!
here’s what one lovely editor at a major USA publishing house had to say:
“… Her writing has an almost feral energy to it and the exuberant prose, and thematic ambition are very impressive. She also has a cutting wit which buttresses her descriptive powers….”
that is so awfully kind of them to say, and i am truly ….er…. i was going to say humbled, but really, i am truly shitting myself.
that being said, i am so excited for the future, i cannot tell you!
(now where’s my change of undies….)
i’ve noticed many people in the publishing world have started following me on twitter (and clicking on this blog). ‘Sup hombres!
welcome to my neuroses!
listening last night to people talk about the creation of movies during the Oscars reminded me about my journey in writing my novel, all the years i’ve poured into it, and how this year will be the year that all of that effort pays off ….
L-I-F-E-G-O-E-S-O-N you got more than money & sense my friend, you got heart, and you go in your own way
little chrissy looney-tunes has spent 2011 figuring things out.
i’ve never really had a bad year before. not as an adult, anyway. once my life moved beyond adolescence, life just kept getting better and better. this year, it felt like something was off. i may be a punk rock survivor, but the closest thing to success this year was falling into the spiral of editing my book. to a writer, the truth is usually no big deal, but this year, it was a pendulum.
and then this month, i got the results back from a very scary and painful biopsy…. all clear!
the tail-pipe of this year is finally exhausting breathable air.
turn around, chrissy.
and say something.
as i mentioned last month, the Toronto Arts Council has graciously awarded me with the Level 2 Grant for Writers. if you take a look at my Writing Portfolio (scroll to the bottom), you’ll see that I have been rather fortunate throughout my career when it comes to getting funding and grants to work on my creative writing projects.
i get a lot of questions from new writers, wanting to know how to apply for grants, what the process is, and how to find out about them. back in january, i was an invited panellist on a Writing & Publishing panel at York University (my alma mater). we talked about several different topics related to the professional side of writing, including how to get grants.
when i was asked what kinds of funding and grants i would suggest people seek out and apply for, this was my answer. watch the video below to see me speak for seven minutes at a feverish pace about where to get grants, how to apply, making a case for yourself, and the required hustling therein.
now never ask me about grants again.
TIFF is coming up, and I’ve been invited to so many advanced press screenings that I’m debating whether or not I should throw myself face-first into the fest like I did last year. Last year was amazing, I reviewed the festival for FOUR different media outlets, including the CBC. I met some amazing people in the industry, attended some hoity-toity parties, saw a record-breaking 35 films (including The King’s Speech, where I knew from the press screening that it would win the Oscar), and feasted on the visual stimuli flashing through a darkened cinema. Static flicking off the beams of light.
So why the debate?
Mama’s got a book to write.
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sneak with me as i disappear into the back alleys. keep your feet pedaling, the bike leaves no footprint. the night will swallow us like a python, opening its mouth, and then holding its breath.
all the kids in the ghetto call me Don chris estima.
gauzed in red, the colour tearing through my flesh, this painted city belongs to me.
we discover art.
and you will know i was once here
by the looks thrown over my shoulder.
Rob introduced me to Poser, who does these smooth rabbits all over town. Now you won’t be able to walk around without noticing them. I love how the rabbits are holding spraypaint cans whilst almost saying “Eyyyyhhhh, sup gurrrrrl.”
that single BlogTO tweet sent my blog traffic batshit crazy through the roof, kiboshing all previous records. fanks hombres!
hello new munchkin readers! enjoy my neurotic blogjaculation.
relax, i’m hilarious.
now shut up and show me your tweets.
rob takes a decent graffiti snap.
rob and i snuck around the back alleys for about four hours, well past midnight. darkness creeping in on secrets.
first obvious target: graffiti alley, then up the ossington alleys, then through kensington market. i think our next destination should be the rail path which runs through the junction. i know there’s some amazing shit there, my camera is gagging for it.
does anybody else think this looks like a concentration camp?
zejko? that sounds yugoslavian . . . maybe serbian or croatian or bosnian. i wonder who this guy is.
political figure? martyr? writer? philosopher? just some dude?
andy warhol just rolled his eyes.
ha, i love this little gas-can fucker.
oh hello mr elliott. we meet again.
i’m surprised to still see some of the Andrew posters around, they’re quite old (in terms of street art shelf life), so this was a rare find. however, considering the way Andrew died, tagging the poster with a mouthful of blood and a speech bubble with “liberal lies” is rather upsetting.
what kind of tagger writes “liberal lies” anyway? i’m sorry, is Andrew’s tragic story offensive to your conservative graffiti ethos? fuck off with that shit.
my last post detailed some Tokyo tags, and now we know who he is. Rob found him on facebook, so we have a face with a (fake)name now. Sup guy.
i also recently blogged about the posters and stickers that have gone up around queen and spadina, commemorating the kettling and brutality that occurred last year during the G20 summit. the stickers say “our civil rights were lost here.” the posters show sombre photos of the attrocities done against peaceful toronto civilians.
the “tokyo” is almost gone. i wish rob ford was rubbing away too.
this headless frowner reminds me of our unhappy hipster run-in while rob and i took a break at 416 Snack Bar. some loud hipsters with massive, square, black-framed specs, and nostrils brimming with white coke, shouted at me from across the table to smile.
i turned into them and gave a fatal grimmace.
coked-up hipster goes, “that’s the worst smile i’ve ever seen. why won’t you smile for me?”
to which i leaned in and coo’d, “I’m not going to be your monkey.”
and at that, his balls crawled back up inside his body.
from what i can gather here, someone stenciled “supreme” then someone with a spray can tagged it into “supremely stupid” but they spelled “stupid” wrong…. studpid? stucpid?
this freaked the shit out of me, because in the darkness of the alley, you couldn’t see all those details. you could see a bit of the face. my flash revealed the bleeding ghost.
some daytime shots from the back alleys in parkdale.
is that elvis presley or chris cornell?
when horses are this lame, they shoot ’em.
hi c-saw, i will respond to that question with this.
good call, speaking of bikes …
i’ve got more THE GOOD BIKE finds!
a basket filled with a potted plant, untouched!
AND it’s bolted to the ground. you ain’t stealing this, fuckfaces.
the photo of me at the top of this post is of me taking this photo….
wow, that’s so meta.
and the moral is: the easiest way to make guys lose their shit is to have yours together
I made this poster myself, can I get a whut-whut up in dis hurr bitch?
Alliance Films is proud to present the upcoming release of their new film Submarine, a dramatic comedy about a 15-year-old named Oliver Tate. Oliver has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life. Submarine is produced by Ben Stiller and features some rockin’ tunes from Alex Turner, lead singer of mega-rock-band Arctic Monkeys (personal fav, download their new song “don’t sit down cos i’ve moved your chair,” it’s made of wizard juice)!
Alliance has partnered with The Spadina Monologues to give you a chance to win passes to the advanced screening of Submarine on Thursday, June 9th, before the rest of the planet gets a glimpse. As a film critic, I’m always talking about what it’s like to attend press screenings, advanced screenings, and reviewing films. Now is your chance to have the film critic experience. Oh, and did I mention that I will also be at this advanced screening with you? You can tell everyone you’re on a date with me. I won’t deny it. Swearsies.
How To Enter:
I have 19 double passes (yes, that means you AND a friend) to give away. All you have to do comment in the comments section below, and tell me why you want to see this film. But be sure to be creative, because 4 lucky winners who impress me the most with their mad-comment-skillz will also get a copy of the novel Submarine by Joe Dunthorne, which the Independent Review calls, “the sharpest, funniest, rudest account of a periodically troubled male teenager’s coing of age since The Catcher in The Rye.” That’s a pretty glowing review. I never give such high praise (I’m a tough book critic as well). Make sure in your entry to include either/or/both your email address and your Twitter handle so I can notify my lucky winners!
Details and Contest Rules:
Contest closes Wednesday June 8th at noon. All entries must be received by then. No duplicates will be accepted. Imma be tough up in hurrr.
The advanced screening is Thursday, June 9th at Cineplex Odeon Varsity & VIP Cinemas in Toronto (55 Bloor Street West in the Manulife centre). Prize does not include transportation to the venue. The screening begins at 7pm sharp and no latecomers are admitted (overbooked to ensure capacity, and all that). I will be at the cinema for 6pm to hand out the passes and prize packs, but will only stick around until 6:30pm (I wanna get a seat too, ya know). So arrive early!
watch things on vcrs with me and talk about big love; i think we’re superstars, you say you think we are the best thing; but you, you just know, you just do
“no congenital anomaly is visualized. no scoliosis or lateral listing is detected. no obvious soft tissue abnormality is detected. no antero-or retrolisthesis. bone density is adequate. vertebral body heights are well maintained. the medial acetabular floors are medial to the kohler’s lines. disc spaces are well maintained. the visualized portions of the hip joints are unremarkable. no radiographic evidence of hypermobility.”
* * *
nazneen sheikh, the lady of the hour, as vivacious as ever. this photo is exactly how i picture her in my head when i fink of her
>O tico tico tá, tá outra vez aqui, o tico tico tá comendo o meu fubá; se o tico tico tem, tem que se alimentar, que vá comer umas minhocas no pomar
>my weekend with my old man in faro, albufeira, portimão, lagos, and sagres (portugal)
cristiano ronaldo is a god
i lay on ben‘s bed but didn’t watch the movie. didn’t listen to the rain tapping morse-code on the window. tv didn’t entertain. i lay there and slept with my limbs twined around his. the heavy weight of the drowsy morning slowly pushing us through the tube, holding the handrails and each other.
please come to the Book Launch of
NAVIGATING CUSTOMS !!
Book 3 of Tendril Anthology Series with travel stories by 12 writers under 25 and a trestle chapbook by Cleo Paskal
edited by Dana Bath & Taien Ng-Chan
FRIDAY May 25, 2007
LE CAGIBI, 5490 St. Laurent (@ St-Viateur), Montreal, Quebec
cyber readings video screenings musical guests & DJ
my travel piece Between Berlin & Beirut is included in this anthology. you can read my bio on the cumulus press website here
The Tendril Anthology Series places the apprenticeship of new young writers under the age of 25 at the centre of Cumulus’ publishing program. This third book in the anthology series—whose innovative book design includes a distinct but inseparable Trestle Chapbook by award-winning travel writer, Cleo Paskal—embodies its raison d’être: to provide a device for the mentorship of emerging writers from across Canada. Cleo’s story is set aside within the French flap of the front cover in a format commonly used by the novice writer. This series attempts to eliminate the distinction between emergence and establishment because the latter is not possible without the former.
These young authors explore a wide range of travel and genre: from an autobiographical tale about chasing news stories in Nicaragua, to short fiction about a young woman who has run away from her home in Gimli, Manitoba, to a long poem about Great Barrier Island in the South Pacific. Even if we’ve been to the places described, we haven’t been there as these writers have. We haven’t gone deaf in Guyana in the same way, nor questioned visiting Ground Zero in the same way, though our unease with ourselves there may be similar. And even if we’ve been to Locon, France, we didn’t meet the same people, though we might wish we had. The writing here is fresh, unique, and takes us on journeys that are unlike any others.
of course because i’m woven in london’s fabric, i won’t be able to make the event, but if any of my peeps in montreal wanna check out the event and fill me in later, i will treat you to a poutine:)
>leave me out with the waste, this is not what i do; it’s the wrong kind of place to be thinking of you
tourism by nirpal singh dhaliwal is a fricken amazing novel, i couldn’t get on the tube without having it handy. i think dhaliwal and i write eerily about the same things – raw sex, ethno-cultural disaffection, gender-wars, present-day socio-political issues, except he veers more to misogyny when he should be aiming for feminism. nonetheless his prose was fire-infused and his present-day musings and his po-mo perspectives were timely and uncannily relevant. i tore through the pages, ravenous.
(view more photos here)
following the lives of london’s twentysomethings as they struggle through sex-wars, status-shakeups, and an unquenchable lust not for the physical but tantamount for mind-fucks, i was enthralled from beginning to end. as soon as i entered the small black box theatre above a bustling pub with plush red seats and noisy air conditioner, i knew i was where i should be.
proscenium arches should be burned in the streets.
the script itself was tight, meticulously plotted, and carried dialogue that resonated long after the lines were spoken. in terms of performance, although this should have been tom harper’s (who plays protagonist Nick) time to shine, i was more enthralled with actor samuel james (who plays cocksure and compelling mate Joe), and the sincerity of susanna fiore (‘adriana’) portrayal of a hurt lover who finds her own.
i thought about the parallels with my play the spadina monologues, and all the places i’m sending it to.
the thing about me and theatres is, i like sitting in the front row, pushed beyond my comfort levels, inside the 4th wall, where the spotlights brush my face now and again, and make myself part of the scene. i purposefully make eye contact with the actors, make them look away first. linger after the play has ended. i lean in, get wrapped up, and won’t lean out. there is something in this that rips me open. without the pleasure of a scar.
on the bus ride home tonight, sitting atop the double decker, a date was winding down. the couple chatted like nervous conspirators. he battled his italian accent, she with her norwegian. their accents fought for dominance. from behind, i decided i liked his hair better than hers.
for this long weekend, i think i’m going to hop on a boat, travel down the thames to greenwich. stand in the spot where time meets.
and make it stop.